Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Development of a Protocol to Soil Survey Reclaimed Mine Land in North Dakota.

Perry Sullivan1, Michael Ulmer1, Jeanne Heilig1, Paul Benedict1, Joseph Brennan1, and Dean Moos2. (1) USDA-NRCS, 2001 6th Street SE, Minot, ND 58701, (2) North Dakota Public Service Commission, 600 East Boulevard, Bismarck, ND 58501

North Dakota contains large reserves of lignite coal, with approximately 32 million tons surface mined annually.  A successful cooperative effort between the mining industry and state regulators has produced a high-quality land reclamation program, with land being restored to its pre-mine use and productivity. Surface mining has resulted in about 50,000 acres of anthropogenically disturbed land existing in North Dakota without an adequate soil survey.  A soil survey is necessary for conservation planning, eligibility for farm programs, and resource management.  To meet these needs, the National Cooperative Soil Survey Program, under the leadership of the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, initiated a project to map, classify, and interpret these soils.  A Field Mapping Team and a Data Base Team were established to develop protocol to complete a pilot project on an area of approximately 5000 acres managed by the Falkirk Mining Company. The Field Mapping Team utilized digital data provided by the mine and North Dakota Public Service Commission to model landscapes, design map units, and locate soil delineations.  Soil mapping was field checked to assure accuracy.  The Data Base Team compiled previously completed reclamation research conducted by University and ARS scientists over a 30 year period.  This information was used to populate physical and chemical properties of these soils in NASIS (National Soil Information System).   Additional field work focused on soil investigations to establish soil series and collect needed information for the data base. The resulting product is a digital Order 2 soil survey with established anthropogenic soil series, map unit descriptions, soil physical and chemical properties, and soil interpretations suitable to assist in the future management of these areas.   The procedure establish by this project will be utilized in the soil survey of additional mined areas in the state.